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Japan will discharge water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea, after treatment. A decision capable of provoking the anger of fishermen but also of neighbors like South Korea or China.

The Japanese government announced on Tuesday April 13 that it planned to dump at sea more than 1 million tonnes of water contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster.

This decision, taken more than a decade after the disaster, is yet another blow to the region’s fishing industry. Fishermen have for years opposed the dumping of contaminated water into the sea.

Tokyo said work to dump the contaminated water would start in about two years.

Seven years of debate

This decision puts an end to seven years of debates on how to get rid of water from rain, groundwater or injections needed to cool the cores of nuclear reactors that melted after the gigantic tsunami of March 11, 2011. .

The water will be rejected “after making sure that it is at a level (of radioactive substances, editor’s note) clearly below safety standards,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, adding that the Japanese government would take ” measures “to prevent this from damaging the reputation of the region.

About 1.25 million tonnes of contaminated water are currently stored in more than a thousand cisterns near the nuclear power plant that crashed ten years ago in northeastern Japan. A decision was all the more urgent as the limits of on-site water storage capacity could be reached as early as autumn 2022.

The water intended to be released in this operation, which should take several years, has been filtered several times to be free of most of its radioactive substances (radionuclides), but not of the tritium, which cannot be eliminated with the current techniques.

“We are taking this decision seriously,” said Tomoaki Kobayakawa, the boss of Tepco, the operator of the damaged nuclear power plant, on Tuesday. “We will take measures to prevent harmful rumors from circulating” against local agriculture, forestry, fishing and tourism, he added.

Strong opposition

The government “told us that it would not throw water (in the sea, editor’s note) without the support of the fishermen”, declared to the public television channel NHK Kanji Tachiya, head of a local fishing cooperative in Fukushima, Tuesday morning before the announcement of the decision. “Now they are coming back to it and telling us that they are going to reject the water, it is incomprehensible,” he added.

Neighbors of Japan, with whom Tokyo has stormy relations against a backdrop of historic litigation, have also expressed their dissatisfaction. The measure “is irresponsible at the highest point and will seriously harm public health and safety in the world as well as the vital interests of neighboring countries”, denounced in a statement the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

South Korea has expressed “deep concern” over the Japanese decision to dump the contaminated water.

In early 2020, experts commissioned by the government recommended dumping at sea, a practice that already exists in Japan and abroad on active nuclear installations. Tritium is only dangerous to human health in very high doses, according to experts. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also advocates the option of dilution at sea.

The environmental organization Greenpeace, however, has called for continuing to store the water until the technology allows it to be completely decontaminated. “The decision to dump contaminated water into the ocean is going to leave huge problems for the future,” Greenpeace said in a statement Monday.

With Reuters and AFP

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